The Harms of Bottom Trawling

Example of a bottom trawling net

The stresses humans put on the oceans are becoming too much for them to handle. Overfishing and the destruction of key marine habitats are rampant, and this combined with the pressure of climate change are putting our oceans in serious trouble. Over 25% of US fish stocks are overfished, leading to collapses of fisheries as well as fishing communities around the world, exacting a human toll as well as an environmental one. One manifestation of the severe overfishing problem present is in a technique called bottom trawling.

Bottom trawling is a fishing technique where large weighted nets are dragged across the sea floor to indiscriminately catch fish. The nets can extend downward to depths of 6,000 feet. The nets catch desired target fish as well as untargeted fish, some of which are rare and engendered. In the United States bottom trawling occurs most in the Pacific, the Atlantic, and gulf coasts. This technique caught 800,000,000 pounds of marine life in 2007. Trawling for shrimp is an especially damaging method, as the smaller net means that fewer animals can escape it. The dragging of the net across the seafloor disturbs sea grasses, coral reefs, and other shelters fish use to hide and in and live in. In addition to being destructive, bottom trawling is incredibly wasteful, as it is responsible up to half of all discarded marine life worldwide.

How a bottom trawl works

This affects my life because as someone who lives on Earth, I am intimately connected to the ocean and life within, for both nutrition and as a piece of global cultural inheritance. I consume fish products, my family as well as other people I know consume fish products, and if we do not take the care to see how the fish we use is caught, we are participating in the problem and making it worse.

Bottom trawling contributes in several ways to the continuing destruction of our marine ecosystems. In addition to being wasteful, bottom trawling is severely damaging to seafloors. This habitat destruction further disrupts marine ecosystems, throwing off the balance and eventually affecting fish and marine ecosystems not directly being fished. It makes the seafloor smother, and cause pollutants to mix with plankton, eventually spreading up through the different trophic levels. Bottom trawling also creates harmful algae blooms, which can kill fish and cause conditions dangerous to both marine life and humans. Bottom trawling depletes fisheries, depriving smaller, non-industrial fishers and fishing groups of their livelihoods. Bottom trawling results in overfishing, which threatens both local fishing and tourism. The majority of caught fish are not desired, and are thrown away.

Bottom trawling enacts a devastating toll on ocean floors, flattening them and stripping away key structures used by fish

Organizations are taking steps to lessen the harmful impacts of bottom trawling. The Marine Conservation Institute has produced examinations to the impacts od bottom trawling on marine ecosystems, and advocate for use of less destructive fishing methods, and keep bottom trawling out of vulnerable marine habitats. Ocean sanctuaries that protect specific populations from overfishing are helping. There is not a ton the average person can do to stop bottom trawling and the industries that perpetuate It on their own, outside of joining an organization that works to raise awareness of and combat the practice.

Sea Turtles are one of many species put in danger by the practice of bottom trawling


Chestney, Nina. “Bottom Trawling Wrecking Ocean Floor, Study Finds.” The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor, 06 Sept. 2012. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

“Destructive Fishing.” Marine Conservation Institute, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.

Stiles, Margot L., Julie Stockbridge, Michelle Lande, and Michael F. Hirshfield. “Impacts of Bottom Trawling.” Oceana, May 2010. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.

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